TECH

Google Smart Contact Lens Could Detect Diabetes

15/07/2014 15:57 BST | Updated 15/07/2014 15:59 BST

Google has announced a partnership with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis which will see the creation of a smart contact lens that can hopefully detect diabetes in your tears.

Google's smart contact lens was first unveiled in January with the hopes of opening up further research around what smart wearables could accomplish. Well the latest upgrade will allow it to read the Glucose levels in your tears eventually allowing your smartphone to analyse your blood sugar levels; an essential daily routine for people with diabetes.

According to statistics from Diabetes UK, more than 3 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with the condition as of 2013.

google smart contact lens

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said: "Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people. We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true."

The move will see Novartis' eye care division, Alcon, which develops contact lenses, work with Google on making the technology commercially available in the future.

The announcement is the latest in a string of futuristic projects that Google has undertaken over the last year. The company has launched Google Glass, its wearable headset that has its own range of apps that work within the wearer's field of vision, and has also begun trialling driverless cars on the streets close to Google headquarters in California.

All of these projects come from the Google X lab, the company's infamous creative space where staff are encouraged to come up with "moonshot" ideas for new ventures.

Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said: "We are looking forward to working with Google to bring together their advanced technology and our extensive knowledge of biology to meet unmet medical needs. This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye."

In a statement, the Swiss company said their focus would be on two areas of the technology, to help diabetic patients manage their condition, but also to offer some vision correction to those who are short-sighted.

"For people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses, the "smart lens" has the potential to provide accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye's natural autofocus on near objects in the form of an accommodative contact lens or intraocular lens as part of the refractive cataract treatment," said a Novartis spokesman.

Neither company has placed a time frame on the development of the lenses, with Novartis stressing that there were no guarantees a commercial product would ever be launched, and that more development was needed on both sides.

Earlier this year at the Wearable Technology Show in London, futurist Dave Evans suggested that smart contact lenses would come into existence before humans would start to replace parts of their bodies with technological "upgrades" over the coming decades.

"Where I think we're going in the next decade is the embeddable phase, where all this technology we wear will be embedded in our bodies. But ultimately where I think we're going in the next couple of decades is to actually move into the replacement phase; where we take perfectly good parts of our body and replace them with something a little bit better," he said.